Wednesday, March 5, 2014

US Navy transitions global ocean forecast system for public use

This Image from the Navy Global Ocean Forecast System (GOFS) portrays sea surface temperature (SST) on Jan. 15, 2014. 

The warm tropical waters can be seen to flow through the Gulf of Mexico and northward along the eastern US seaboard where the Gulf Stream separates at Cape Hatteras, off the coast of North Carolina, and flows to the east. 

This warm water "conveyer-belt" alters the ice cover across the north Atlantic. 

Without the ocean transport of heat, global climate and weather would be dramatically changed. 

Credit: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory-Oceanography Division

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) within the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have entered into a formal agreement that results in NCEP using Navy developed global ocean forecast model technology to make environmental ocean forecasts for public use.

"Development of an advanced global ocean prediction system has been a long-term Navy interest," said Dr. Gregg Jacobs, head, NRL Ocean Dynamics and Prediction Branch.

"This use of Navy developed systems for global ocean forecasting represents dual use technology that will benefit civilian interests and is an excellent example of the cutting edge research that is enabled through Navy sponsored investments."

The Navy has had requirements for predicting the ocean environment for its purposes including estimating acoustic propagation, placement of sonar arrays, determining currents for mine drift and burial, drift for search and rescue, and safety of operations on and under the ocean surface.

NRL has enabled Navy operational ocean prediction of tactically relevant information.

To accomplish this task, Jacobs says three critical components are necessary to predict the open ocean environment.

Ocean Circulation Models - Gregg Jacobs.

"The first is access to satellite observations that measure precise sea surface height, sea surface temperature and ice concentration with in situ observations from public sources and Navy ships; second, numerical models representing the dynamical processes capable of understanding the physics of the ocean and numerical methods for efficiently representing those physics; and lastly, the third critical component is the technology to correct the numerical models using the observations through data assimilation."

The new agreement will allow NCEP to use software developed by NRL to assimilate data necessary to maintain daily forecast accuracy that enables safe, at-sea operations, hazard mitigation, resource management, and emergency response.

"This is an example of complementary missions across agencies that through coordinated application leads to protecting our service personnel, who ensure the high seas are safe, and protecting our resources and citizens at home." Jacobs said.

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